Tag Archives: Air

Why I Stopped Using Harbor Freight Air Fittings

In short, Harbor Freight quick couplers look like a cheap way to go.  The problem is that they are really soft.  I can’t even guess how many female fittings I have thrown away as they deformed and started to leak air.

The same goes for the soft male fittings.  You will find they abrade easily and leak air plus they bend and break easily.  The latest example is this male plug on my IR 117 air hammer where the smaller nipple is tearing away from the relatively thicker base:

My solution is simple – I only use Milton air fittings now and you can get them from Amazon at an affordable price.  Every time one of my many Harbor Freight units fails, I replace it.  By the way, I’m to the point that I don’t recommend any of the cheap import fittings regardless of maker.  Milton isn’t much more and they will last.

By the way, when you look purely at the purchase cost that doesn’t tell the whole story.  This fitting failed right at the start of the job and set me back about 10-15 minutes while I was rummaging around for my Milton spares, my teflon tape, the wrench, setting the tool in the vise to do the work, etc.   All of a sudden the supposed purchase savings doesn’t seem like a big deal.  By the way, I was swearing the whole time too 🙂

Here are the 1/4″ Milton M-type fittings that I use and recommend:


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Milton (S-210) 1/4 NPT M-Style Coupler and Plug Kit, (12-Piece) (Tools & Hardware)

Milton (S-210) M-Style Coupler and Plug Kit, (12-Piece)
This pneumatic 12-pc. Milton (S-210) M-Style KWIK-CHANGE coupler/plug air accessory kit includes a variety of couplers, plugs and fittings with a 1/4″ basic flow size (air handling capacity). Milton M-Style Kwik Change couplers are made of brass, while M-Style Kwik Change plugs are made of case-hardened steel and are plated to resist rust. This collection of couplers and plugs:

– Will interchange with all manufacturers who comply with the dimensional requirements of military specification MIL-C-4109.
– Offer a maximum airflow of 40 standard cubic feet per minute.
– Offer a maximum of 300 pounds per square inch.
– Can withstand a max temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

KIT INCLUDES:

(2) 1/4″ FNPT couplers
(8) 1/4″ MNPT plugs
(2) 1/4″ FNPT plugs

Singular Milton Item Part #’s:

#715 coupler (1/4″ FNPT)
#727 plug (1/4″ MNPT)
#728 plug (1/4″ FNPT)

 


Features:

  • BASIC FLOW SIZE: All 1/4″ body size air fittings. 1/4″ NPT. Buna-N seals.
  • KWIK-CHANGE®: Interchangeable/compatible with most manufacturers. Easy push to connect.
  • MAXIMUM: 40 SCFM. 300 PSI. Temperatures up to 250 degrees F.
  • QUALITY: Durable brass couplers. Case-hardened steel plugs, plated to resist rust and corrosion.
  • M-STYLE KIT INCLUDES: (2) Female Couplers, (8) Male Plugs, and (2) Female Plugs. (Milton #715, #727, #728)

List Price: $22.73 USD
New From: $19.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Resurrecting a Gummed Up Air Tool Without Disassembly

Recently I got out my Ingersoll Rand model 117 air hammer to use and found out its action had gotten all gummed up.  It’s been probably a year since I last used it even then probably didn’t use it a ton.  I always drip air tool oil into a tool before use because my air lines run driers and particulate filters for my plastics work.  Thus, I have to manually apply the oil before I use a tool.

When I went to use 117 the piston would not actuate and when I shook the tool, it didn’t sound like it normally did.  My first thought was to check the air pressure and it was at 90 PSI and the regulator was wide open so my next guess was lubrication.  Adding more air tool oil didn’t make any difference.  I then remembered a tip a guy told me years ago with gummy air tools – spray a ton of PB Blaster down the quick connect fitting and let it sit with the quick connect fitting up in the air trapping the penetrating oil in the tool for 5 minutes and try again.

So, I did that, reconnected the air line and it worked!  The tool worked like a champ and it blew PB Blaster everywhere!  I did it one more time just to make sure stuff was clear and ran the tool for a maybe 30 seconds to blow the PB Blaster out, wiped it down with a rag and then put in four drops of air tool oil.  Problem solved.

This was a huge win because I was in the middle of working on AK and wanted to use this tool plus I didn’t have time to take it all apart,  I’m writing this post a few weeks later after completing the AK build and the IR 117 is still working like a champ.

By the way, PB Blaster can be found at tons of automotive stores.  The packing looks gimmicky but it is actually one of the best penetraing oils that is out there along with Kroil.  If I didn’t have access to either of those, I would have made up some Ed’s Red or at least used some form of transmission fluid.  Tranny fluid works great but take a while to penetrate gunk.


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Ingersoll-Rand 117K 2,000 Blows-Per-Minute Standard Duty Pnuematic Hammer with 5 Chisel Set (Tools & Home Improvement)

An economical air hammer with a longerpiston stroke, this tool is designed forexhaust work, bolt cutting, and front-endwork. The trigger control and a built-in powerregulator give you full control of the speed and power. Longer stroke piston. Alloyed steel barrel and heat-treated piston for longer life. Up to 2, 000 blows per minute.

Features:

  • Longer Stroke Piston
  • Alloy steel barrel and heat-treated piston for longer life
  • Up to 2,000 blows per minute
  • 5 piece chisel kit

List Price: $69.99 USD
New From: $69.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $65.23 USD In Stock

How to Connect a Paasche H Air Brush to Your Shop’s Compressed Air System

I recently purchased a Paasche H-series kit from Amazon as I wanted to get a quality air brush.  I was surprised at all the confusion around how to hook up the H to a standard shop air system and want to clarify matters.

Now the set comes with the airbrush, tips, bottles and an airline.  The airline is the key – on the end that connects to the airbrush, it is 1/8″.  The other is 1/4″ female.  just take 1/4″ air fitting with male thread, apply several layers of PTFE tape to the thread and then screw on the hose and tighten – done.  That’s it.

The red assembly above the plug is a cheap generic inline disposable filter.  I simply have quick connects to make it easy to move my airbrush around to where I need to work in my shop.  I run a high-end filter system in my shop and still put a screw in filter just before the air brush’s air line just to play it safe.  If you run your air brush off your home compressor, you definitely need to do this and the more contaminated your air is, the faster the filter will foul out.  If you have any questions about the quality of your air, shoot a blast at a test mirror and see what all spatters on it – you’re liable to see a ton of goop if you are not filtering out water and/or have a lubricator in the line.

If you do have a ton of contaminants and plan to airbrush a lot, then invest in a good filtering system.  There are tons of them out there.  At a minimum, considering really good disposable filters such as a Motor Guard M30 for 1/4″ lines.  Worst case, just make sure you have the disposable filters installed and change them regularly.  If you are still getting water and other junk when you spray, then decide how to either filter your lines or buy a dedicated airbrush compressor.  For me, it was a no brainer given the air system I already have and the disposable filter is there “just in case”.

At any rate, this is a great airbrush.  Having trashed numerous Harbor Freight airbrushes over the years, this is a wonderful step up.  I hope this helps.


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Paasche H-SET Single Action Siphon Feed Airbrush Set (Kitchen)

The airbrush features a chrome plated body for durability. Included with the airbrush are all three available spray heads, which allow the H airbrush to be used in a wide range of application. The H single action allows the user to achieve fine lines down to 1/16-inch and wider patterns of up to 1-1/2-inch. The H is simple and easy to use and requires very little practice compared to double action models. The best uses are those requiring more basic spraying like solid coats, uniform lines or stencil work. Clean up is as simple as spraying your paint cleaner though the airbrush. The H is used for many applications including hobby, craft, chip and ding repair, taxidermy, ceramics, cake decorating, tanning, tattoos, etc. The H airbrush is made in the US and includes the following: H#3 airbrush, size 1 and 5 spray heads, 1/4-ounce metal cup, 1-ounce bottle assembly, 1-ounce storage bottle, hanger, wrench, 6-foot braided hose, lessons booklet and manual.

Features:

  • The H airbrush is perfect for beginners or those requiring quick and easy spraying
  • Achieve patterns of 1/16-inch to 1-1/2-inch
  • Set includes all three head sizes
  • The H airbrush is made in the USA

List Price: $58.48 USD
New From: $57.00 USD In Stock

Installed a 20 Ton Air Over Hydraulic Bottle On My Shop Press

My shop press is actually rated for 30 tons but I have used a 20 ton bottle for a safety margin.  Until recently, my preference has been a hand pumped 20 ton bottle on my press.  The reason for this is that when pressing barrels, pins, etc. I like to “feel” how much pressure I am applying.  Years back, I bought a 20 ton air over hydraulic bottle from Harbor Freight as guys told me it was faster.  What this means is that an air-operated mechanism pumps a piston and extends the bottle.  For a variety of reasons, it sat by the press and never got installed – mainly I did not have an airline there and I didn’t really have the need – as my grips business increased, free time to build AKs decreased.

At any rate, with the new SWAG shop press, I didn’t want to stand around pumping the bottle so I ran an airline and installed the bottle.

Installing it was a breeze (not including running the air line).  I just screwed in the head of the ram of the old bottle enough to pull it out.  I then slid in the new bottle and adjusted the screw head until it was nice and snug.  Done.  I’m using regular 3/8″ air line with 1/4″ Milton quick connect fittings and it seems to have plenty of air.

Boy is the end result nice — I can use the air system to run the ram down to where I want to then take over by hand and feel what is going on.  What a time saver.

One annoying issue I had to overcome was the pressure relief valve.  The bottle still has one of the little “+” shaped valves that you have to slide the handle onto.  SWAG makes a replacement handle you can slide onto the shaft and reinstall the pin but my budget was spent and then some.  Instead. I found some tubing in my shop and made a little “T” handle and cut a relief into one end with my band saw for the pin to slide into.  It’s way more convenient than using the long pump lever arm.

So the that’s it for the bottle. The next post will talk about the lower bending die and the series is done.


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Review: Chicago Pneumatic CP7200 Mini Orbital Sander is Solid!

Well folks, I bought three Jet small dual action sanders from a closeout tool shop 4-6 years ago and have to replace the little valve on them several times each.  This year when two failed, there were no little valves to be found so I decided to go with a name brand.  I did this for two reasons – solid quality and replacement parts.  These get a ton of use in my shop.   I did some digging around and ran across the CP7200 that has a nice grip, variable throttle, integral regulator to adjust the speed and both a 2″ and 3″ hook and loop pad.

   

 

For me, the backer is really important.  I need to sand curved shapes, constantly switch grits of sandpaper and those backing pads do wear out.  I can’t tell you how many I replaced on my Jet sanders and not all of them are good quality.  I made sure this unit used a standard thread (1/4×20) so I could readily find replacement backers.   Note the little tool in the next photo, it slides into a key hole so you can lock the head and screw the backer in securely.  Many of these little sanders are this way.  I have a tool glued into a length of fuel hose to find it easier, I’ve used little philips head screw drivers, etc.  Bottom line is that you need to lock the head in place so you can thread on the backer and tighten it down.

Any air sander uses a lot of air – let’s just be up front about that.    The manual recommends 16.6 CFM @ 90PSI.  That means you’ll want to have a decent compressor and need to figure out how much you want it to run vs. you waiting.  In other words, using this with an air compressor intended for an air nailer is going to suck.  The little compressor will not be able to keep up and it’s tank is way too small.  I have a Ingersoll Rand 2340 with a 60 gallon tank and the pump can deliver 14.3CFM at 90PSI and fills the tank to 175PSI.  This that if I am running the tool wide open non-stop, I will use air faster than the compressor can refill the tank.  However, it is a big tank at an even higher pressure plus I sand and stop, sand and stop over and over.  It really does not tax my compressor at all.

Oh – one last comment about the air supply – use a 3/8″ internal diameter (ID) hose so you can get enough air to the tool.  With a 1/4″ hose you may well starve it because the air will be very restricted until it gets to the tool.  It’s like having too small of a gauge extension cord going to a power tool – you can just get so much air down that small 1/4″ diameter hose.  Quarter inch fittings are fine but do use the 3/8″ hose.  With that said, as usual, the unit did not have a 1/4″ quick connect installed so I took one out of my parts bin, installed some PTFE tape and snugged it down. As you can see, the tools weighs in at 1 pound 9.7oz.  Not too bad and the grip is nice.

  

Before you put it into production, squeeze in 2-4 drops of air tool oil.  I’ve had good luck with all the oils I have bought and just stick with a name brand such as ATS, Porter-Cable, CH, and even Husky.  Your air tool needs this to run.  If you have an in-line oiler in your air lines then you may be able to skip this step.  I filter the heck out of my air and have to manually oil my tools.  My rule of thumb is to oil them before each day of use.

So I bought the unit on May 14th, 2017, and already have probably 20 hours on it with no hitch.  Not surprisingly the head was a little stiff but everything wore in nicely.  It appears to be working like a champ so I am recommending it to others.

Note, CP backers are a fortune.  I’ve had very good luck with this brand of Chinese backing pad with my other sanders so I’m providing the eBay link.  Be very sure the thread is right (I’ve found three so far – 1/4, 5/16 and M6 so be careful) and look for the particular graphic label.  I’ve had other Chinese backers that just disintegrated with very little use.  You figure the tool can spin up to 15,000 RPM so your pad needs to be rated for that as well.  If you can find them elsewhere, great.  I scrounge around on eBay until I find them.

Update 7/7/2017:  The sander is still working great – no problems at all.  I’d estimate the unit has somewhere between 30-40 hours of use on it at least – it gets used a lot.


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TWO 2 inch Hook and Loop Replacement SANDING PADS 1/4"x 20 15,000RPM

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3 Pcs Putty Knife Set, Includes 2 Inch Stiff Putty Knife, 3 Inch S

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Also, I swear by Milton air line fittings.  Harbor Freight and Husky female fittings just do not hold up.  I do have a ton of HF and Husky male fittings that I am slowly using up but only buy Milton female quick connects now and will switch to all Milton as soon as I run out of the old plugs.  I’ve been using Milton Type M female couplers for over a year and they are solid.

 

 

 


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Chicago Pneumatic CP7200 Mini Random Orbital Sander – Hand Sander with Two Finger Progressive Throttle. Power Tools (Tools & Home Improvement)

Chicago Pneumatic offers a complete range of sanders to suit your finishing surface applications from heavy material removal to fine finishing. This features random orbital sanders, rotary sanders, pistol sander & polishers, and belt sanders. This CP7200 Mini random orbital sander is designed with an adjustable power regulator to match the speed with the job. Lightweight sander is compact in size to perform well in inaccessible areas. Random-orbit sander features muffled handle exhaust to lower unwanted sound during repair activities. This palm tool provided with a two-finger progressive throttle for easy control. Pneumatic sander has a rubber molded pistol grip that offers comfortable handling.

Features:

  • Compact Sander: Ideal for small area repairs, this air sander features an adjustable power regulator to optimize sanding speed. Compactly designed, the orbital sander is easy to handle and weighs only 1.5 lbs.
  • Easy-to-Use Air Sander: Palm tool features a two-finger progressive throttle for effective control. Pneumatic sander is also provided with a rubber molded pistol grip that delivers comfortable handling.
  • Versatile Applications: Lightweight sander is compactly designed for easy access in unreachable areas. Random-orbit sander includes muffled handle exhaust to minimize unwanted sound during use.
  • Vibration-Resistant Grip: Rubber grip of powerful sander absorbs and reduces vibration while working for smooth operation.
  • Specifications: Pneumatic sander work with a variable speed up to 15,000 RPM. Mini random Orbital Sander comes with 2 in. (50mm) and 3 in. (75mm) backing pads and a spindle key.

List Price: $113.99 USD
New From: $113.99 USD In Stock

Need Drier Shop Compressed Air? – Step 2: Build a Moisture Separation System

When compressed air leaves a compressor, the the temperature drops as it expands, and moisture condenses on the wall of whatever surface is below the dew point of the air and then runs down to the lowest spot where it is collected and dispose of.  Now the cooling part is critical – just putting an air filter immediately outside of a compressor tank will not accomplish much.  Ideally you want the air to travel and cool for a bit in a metal pipe that is at least 20 feet long.  You may wonder why I mention 20 feet – it’s because I was told 20 feet at a minimum – in other words, I have no basis in engineering, just what guys have told me over the years.  I would just use that as a rule of thumb about how far the air needs to travel at a minimum before you do another round of moisture filtering.  The further the better.

I looked at three simple options when I was considering how to remove the bulk of the moisture from my airlines:

Run your hard air lines at an upward angle and install traps

This is as simple as it sounds.  I like to always install a ball valve and then a quick connect on the tank and run a rubber/flexible airline to the hardline to isolate vibrations. Plug into the airline above a moisture trap like so:

Uphill Hard Line Sample

I investigated this approach but it was going to take up too much space.  I needed to start accessing dry air much closer to my compressor so this was discounted right away.  If I were to build this, I would still use the PneumaticPlus drains referenced in more detail in the next section.

Pros of this approach:  Relatively cheap and easy to build

Cons:  Takes a long distance / not very compact.  It was going to be too long or my needs.

Build a compact moisture separator

Now this is what I do in my shop and it works great.  I use a series of vertical 1/2″ pipes with PneumaticPlus SAD402-N04D-MEP water traps with automatic drains at the bottom of each riser.  Now this works very well.   The vertical pieces are 6 feet tall and the cross sections are 6″.  This is occupying an area about 24″ wide and 8 feet tall.  It’s mounted on the shop wall and out of the way.  Most of the condensation happens in the first pipe. A lesser amount in the second and very little in the third.  It cost about $120 for the plumbing, $56 for each of the automatic drains and then maybe $50 for the  short hoses and 1/2″ fittings.  I installed this in August 2016 and am quite happy with it.

For me, one of the big benefits is with the automatic drains in the water traps.  When the float rises to a certain level there is a quick “pffft” sound and the trap blows out the water and closes again.  It’s not something you have to remember to drain, which is something I am not great at.  Also, when I am doing a lot of work, I might hear the first trap drain twice in one day but that is rare.

 

Sorry I don’t have a photo of the whole system from top to bottom.  I have equipment in front of it now and can’t get a good overall photo.  It’s just too tall for my camera given the limited distance I have to get the photo.

For me, it is really intriguing to see how much condensate is caught in the first trap closest to the compressor.  The second trap has much less and the third is dramatically less than either of the others.  This is not perfect as I still catch moisture in my air filters but it has made a dramatic difference at the end of the line.  When I blow air at a glass or mirror, there isn’t water all over it any more 🙂  I have wondered what would happen if I used 1″ pipe in that first vertical six foot section but have never had the need to spend the money and time to experiment.  In theory, the greater the expansion, the greater the cooling and thus the greater the level of condensation all other things being equal.

By the way, I really like PneumaticPlus.  I actually bought this gear off Amazon with my own money – this is a real review.  Every time I have questions they actually answer their phones and help me.  I had one defective part in one bowl and they immediately sent me a replacement.  In short, not only is the hardware itself good but I like the company behind it too.

You can add 1/8″ tubing to drain the condensate away from the water traps.  I feel it is a good idea to get the water away from the compressor as much as possible:

Pros to this approach:  It actually works, does not need electricity, automatically drains, uses relatively little space

Cons:  The floats could freeze in cold weather so I insulate and heat them in the winter.  I did not have any problems during the 2016/2017 winter with that approach.  It’s a little pricey but it really gets the job done.

By the way, if you can’t afford the automatic drains/traps, then put in ball valves with longer pipes to hold the accumulated condensate and drain them manually.  It definitely works but you must remember to manually drain the traps.

Install a refrigerated air dryer

The last option is the most expensive and that is to install a refrigerated air dryer.  Basically, the warm moist air enters a dryer that is a series of tubes that are refrigerated causing the moisture to condense and then drain out of the unit.  There is a Harbor Freight unit that gets surprisingly good reviews plus many different industrial models to select from.  I have not needed this yet, so I do not have first hand experience.  I’ve read about guys using them to protect their plasma cutters.  I use the above compact moisture separator described above, a two stage air filter system and then a very fine final filter from Hypertherm right before the inlet of my plasma cutter and have not had a problem.

Pros:  You can definitely remove the moisture.  Guys say they really like the low-cost Harbor Freight unit.

Cons:  Expensive and you need electricity for it to work.  It will get pretty dirty in a high dust environment like my shop and need routine cleaning to stay efficient.

If you are interested, here is the link to the HF dryer:  http://www.harborfreight.com/compressed-air-dryer-40211.html

So the first stage of moisture defense in my shop is to keep the tank drained.  Then it is this separator system to get the bulk of the moisture out of the compressed air.  In the last part of the series, I’ll talk about fine air filters.

The three blog posts in the series are:


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon or click one of the AdNow advertisements. EBay and Amazon you need to buy something, AdNow pays for each link you visit – no purchase needed.   With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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PneumaticPlus SAD402-N04D-MEP Compressed Air, External Water Trap Valve with Automatic Drain 1/2″ NPT – Metal Bowl Sight Glass, 10 Micron (Kitchen)

PneumaticPlus SAD Series Automatic Drain offers cost effective solution for filtering particulate and moisture in your airline. SAD Series use 10 Micron Element as a standard element. It also provides bowl options (Metal or Polycarbonate). PneumaticPlus, SAD automatic drain has a float mechanism for automatic liquid discharge and is suitable for removing accumulated liquid from a compressed air system. It does not require electricity or consume air flow for operation. The drain has 1/2″ NPT female inlet and outlet ports for use with existing air piping and requires a minimum air flow of 400 L/min for operation. It has a maximum drain discharge rate of 400 cc/min, an operating temperature range of 23 to 140 degrees F, and an operating pressure range of 14.5 to 145 pounds per square inch (psi). This automatic drain is suitable for use in compressed-air applications such as in a machine shop or assembly line. Compressed air filters remove pollutants and submicronic contaminants from clean air in compressed air handling and preparation systems. Clean compressed air provides and controls energy, conveys materials, and is critical to the safe operation of equipment in many industries. Compressed air filters remove particulates (dirt), oil, water, and oil vapor. They can be combined with other units, integrating with either a regulator, which controls excess pressure for better performance, or a lubricator, which adds oil mist to the air, or both. They are typically constructed of metal, such as zinc or type 316 stainless steel, or transparent polycarbonate, and are available with optional indicators, gauges, and drain configurations depending on the application. Compressed air filters are used in a wide range of applications, including food processing, electronics, health care, and instrumentation, among others.

Features:

  • Automatic drain for removing accumulated liquid from a compressed air system
  • Float Drain w/ 1/4″ Tube Connetion (Push-to Connet Fitting) & Metal Bowl w/ Sight Glass
  • 1/2″ NPT Female Thread ports for use with existing air piping, 10 Mcron Element
  • Float-style drain for automatic liquid discharge without electricity
  • Manufacturerd In Korea, 1 Year Limited Warranty

List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock

Need Dryer Shop Compressed Air? – Step 1 Tank Draining Options

In my shop, I need clean dry air for working with the plastics, the abrasive Blaster, and my air tools. It also comes in handy when I’m spraying on finishes such as Molyresin.  I have certainly had my share of problems over the years caused by dirty air including air tool failures, water or oil spraying on paint, clumping of abrasive Blaster media and so forth. As time went on I identified a number of practices that could help reduce moisture in the air lines as well as other contaminants.  I don’t use an inline oiler so most of my issues revolve around water, rust particles (from the tank and hard air lines) and some amount of air compressor oil that makes it past the piston rings.

The fact is that all compressed air systems will have some amount of moisture when first compressed. Natural air contains moisture and as your compressor pumps it into the tank, it is both heating and concentrating it.  Once the temperature drops below where the moisture will settle out of the air, that is known as the “dew point”, that is when the water appears.   Some of it will collect in the bottom of the tank causing rust and some will likely remain in the compressed air.

Now I am not an expert on this stuff but I have had to try and learn a lot over time.  In this post and the two that follow it, I am going to try and explain options I looked at and what I did.  I’m not going to go into a ton of theory or talk about things I didn’t check out.  If I am really wrong on something, please let me know.  If you really want to get into details, check out a cool website called Compressed Air Best Practices that has tons of information.

I live in Michigan and have a ton of moisture to fight.  I have a lot of air powered wrenches and sanders plus an abrasive blast cabinet and plasma cutter so this is a big deal to me – I need clean dry air.   For me, there’s not one single cost effective solution so I approach the reduction of moisture in stages.  The first and cheapest approach is to dry your air is to Drain your tank!  I can’t emphasize this enough!!

As water settles inside the tank, it gets blown all over the place during use plus it is causing your tank to rust and form sediment at the bottom. The best offense is a good defense. Get rid of the water by regularly draining your tank and this may mean several times every day.  Here’s the amount of moisture I blew out the drain after my compressor ran for several hours (and I do mean actual run time). It’s about a half a cup of water if I were to guess:

Water sitting in your tank not only means you have water blowing everywhere in your tank and potentially adding moisture to the outgoing air but it also causes rust inside your tank both adding further contaminates and weakening the tank over time.  We were all young once, right?  I bought some low end Devilbiss compressor 20-25 years ago and had it in the garage.  My dad asked if I had ever drained it and I really hadn’t been diligent about it.  We opened the valve and it was stunning as to how much smelly rusty water came out.  That sold me.  Over the years I have heard stories of blown / leaky corroded tanks but thankfully have never had that happen first hand.  For me, it is the moisture in the lines that is the problem and regular draining of the tank is the first step in combating that.

So, if draining regularly is a good idea, what are our options for small shops?

Use the drain valve that came with the compressor:

Every consumer or prosumer grade compressor I have seen comes with a drain valve.  When you get up to the industrial models, you may see a hole where they expect you to add something but for most small shops what you have will either look like the old petcock valve from a radiator or a round unit like the above.  Even though reaching those things is a total headache, one option is to live with it, reach under the tank and drain it.  If you are a light user, do this when you are done for the day and leave it open letting everything run out or at least let stop after the bulk of the condensation stops.  If you are doing a ton of work, you may need to drain it every few hours vs. at the end of the day.  It all depends on your experience and how much water you see coming out for a given amount of time.  In general, once is a day is fine and by doing it at the end, it doesn’t sit there needlessly for however long until the next use.

Pros with this approach:  Usually is supplied with the compressor so it is ready to go with not additional investment and it does work.
Cons:  Total headache to reach, ejects the water right under the tank waiting to evaporate and go back into the tank not to mention is messy because you can’t readily control where the condensate goes, and you have to remember to do it (which is the hardest thing always).  Also, these drain valves are pretty cheaply made, can corrode and then be a total bear to open. I really dislike these things but they are better than nothing.

If your existing drain fails for some reason, stores and vendors sell exact replacement drains but don’t do that.  Do one of the next two options to make your life easier.  Matter of fact, do one of the next two options as soon as you can to make your life easier.

Replace the cheap original drain with a better positioned ball valve and drain hose

 

Get rid of that awful little stock valve and install a ball valve that is easier to reach.  This can make things so much simpler.  Odds are the old valve is 1/4″.  Remove it and confirm the size.  Install a nipple, a right angle fitting, a long enough piece of pipe, the ball valve itself and then a hose barb (or 1/4″ quick adapter) with a piece of hose that allows you to drain the condensate where ever you want.  Be sure to wrap all the threads with PTFE tape.  I buy most of my plumbing stuff from Home Depot.  In general, I get pneumatic parts and supplies from Amazon such as Milton quick connect fittings, filters, etc.  I always read the reviews and ratings carefully.

One tip, go with whatever length nipple and a female-female right angle pipe fitting to get the greatest flow.  Also, make sure you have enough room for whatever you are installing.  There is often very little clearance between the bottom of the tank and the floor.  On my IR compressor, I use a “street elbow” that, even though has a relative small internal dimension, works just fine to drain water. I have a valve with a good sized handle and it is very easy to access and to turn.

Since my shop is not heated and I live in Michigan, I need to get creative.  The black cable you see is a pipe warmer with a thermal switch that only comes on at 32F to keep the valve from freezing.  I actually have it on a timer so it will only run 7am-10pm – when I am usually in the shop.

The rubber drain line you see is 3/8″ fuel hose pushed over a regular 1/4″ male quick connect fitting and it goes out the corner of my shop’s garage door.  I’ve never needed a hose clamp and it gets the condensate out of my shop.

Pros:  Quick, easy and cheap  It’s also very reliable in cold weather.

Con:  You still need to remember to do it and you can’t constantly do it.

Now, here’s an interesting alternative for low clearance situations.  I have only seen these – I have never used one but they make sense and pretty much anything is better than that hard to reach stock valve in my opinion:

Install an automatic drain and reap the rewards!

This is the last option and one I recommend – Invest in a automatic drain that has adjustments for how often to open and how long to remain open. Let me tell you, that automatic drain is worth its weight in gold when the temperatures are above freezing.  The only time I go back to the ball valve is when temperatures are below freezing and I don’t want the automatic drain to freeze open and it will do just that in cold weather.  When the warm weather comes, I reinstall the automatic drain.

At any rate, the installation is the same as the ball valve except the automated unit goes in place of the manual valve.  My unit is a Midwest Controls EAD-25 that is probably at least 5-6 years old.  Let me put it this way, I have moved it from one compressor to the next probably three times as I wore consumer compressors out.  I currently have an IR 2340 entry-level industrial compressor that has survived for 2-1/2 years, which is remarkable given how I blew through the consumer Husky models.

 

The following photos are of my doing my spring swap wherein I replace my ball valve with my freshly cleaned automatic drain valve:

   

 

These automatic drains are simple as can be – the timer trips and an electromagnet turns on and opens the valve for the specified duration.  The timer then cuts the electricity to the electromagnet and springs shove the valve back closed.  The only wear point I can see is the rubber surface on the valve and mine still works fine all these years later.  I just have to take it apart and clean it a few times a year, which I will post about later.  The photos in this post were taken in the spring as I converted back from the ball valve to the automatic drain.

Pros:  It is actually easy to install – just add the pipe and install the automatic unit, plug it in, set the timer and blow-off duration and call it even.  It is the best approach I have found when the weather is above freezing.

Cons:  It can be expensive if you buy a name brand but they last forever (I have never tried another brand as my local tool supplier recommended this one and it is still working!).  They will freeze up in the winter (I put my ball valve back in before it gets super cold as my shop is unheated most of the time) and debris can jam it but it is very easy to clean.

This is the exact model I have:

Here are Midwest Controls automatic drains on eBay:

Midwest Control Automatic Electric Tank Drain-115V #MCDV-25-120ADK

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CA-12 LOAD GENIE UNLOADER CHECK VALVE 1/2" compression inlet X 3/8" mpt outlet

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OBO MIDWEST 115V AUTOMATIC CONTROL ELECTRIC CONTROL AIR COMPRESSOR DRAIN**NO BOX

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54398144 , 54389144 THROTTLE CONTROL FOR KOHLER GAS ENGINES 8.5 - 14 HP

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23426687 THROTTLE CONTROL FOR GAS ENGINES 8.5-11 HP

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18058 RIDGID THROTTLE CONTROL FOR GAS HONDA ENGINES 5.5 & 6.5 HP, 26'' LONG

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CS12 UNLOADER COLD START VALVE 1/8"

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Midwest Control Automatic Float Drain #AFD-50

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DEWALT 5131610-00 SUPER CHECK IN-TANK CHECK VALVE 3/8" X 1/2" MPT C3850T

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CV006412AV CAMPBELL HAUSFELD THROTTLE CONTROL FOR GAS ENGINES

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Here are automatic drain clones with very good reviews on Amazon:

In my next post, I’ll explain how to build a condensation based moisture separator and explain some concepts for you to consider.

The three blog posts in the series are:


If you find this post useful, please either buy something from one of the Amazon links, or use one of the links to go to Amazon and buy something completely different — as long as you use one our links to go and buy something from Amazon, it helps us out.  For each item you purchase, we get a small bit of ad revenue from Amazon to fund the blog.  The same is true for eBay as well.